After the soccer demonstration, the Little Ripples preschool teachers and the soccer coaches gathered for our day of mindfulness. Friday is their Saturday, so there’s no school. So we work with the adults (mostly young adults) without the children. We began with a traditional blessing offered by Ahmed, who translates for us. We played a game to break the ice, and Joslyn and I introduced ourselves by talking about our families, and why we joined them in the camp. The traditional greeting from the women here is, “How is your family?” So I shared with them the inspiration of my father’s research and training work in Africa on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) while Joslyn shared that her father was born in a refugee camp. Everyone was riveted by the story of her grandmother’s escape from persecution in Poland, walking all the way to Uzbekistan, and her four years of wandering by foot before landing in the refugee camp.
We are aware of the unspeakable violence and loss they’ve all witnessed in Darfur. Some of them are older and fled as teenagers, some were younger; but all saw their villages destroyed, their mothers and grandmothers and sisters raped and often killed, their fathers, grandfathers, all family members shot and dismembered. Though they hold it with dignity and grace, all are traumatized by the cruelty of the violence by the government of Sudan. Oumda led a community of 7,500 out of Sudan to Chad, walking and hiding. The mindfulness practices we’ll share with this group in the coming days have been carefully modified to take good care of the immense trauma carried by everyone.
My mood is different today. Last night I didn’t sleep well. Once the children left, I seemed to be tuned into the sadness of our new friends. The camp that had beauty yesterday looks squalid and bleak outside of the Little Ripples Ponds and classrooms. My heart was heavy, filled with sorrow. Fatima is a majestic, tall mother of three. She shared with everyone how happy she was at the beginning of the summer, overjoyed with the gift of she was given of birthing twin girls. She fell in love with them! And then, a couple months later, they got sick with malaria and died. Now, she shared, her happiness has gone away.
It was hard to listen, knowing this is a preventable, curable disease — IF you have the money to buy medicine. The children are vitally important. Their exuberance brings pleasure and delight to life in the camp. The teachers devote their work to the future of these children, who are the future. Without their presence today, the group was serious, more subdued. Attentively and with appreciation, they listened and willingly practiced mindful walking, both slow and fast, with us. We ended this day taking turns drumming and singing to lift our spirits, and learned to say, happily, “Bukra, Inshallah.” Tomorrow, God willing!